WATCH: Angler Hooks ‘Super Rare’ 13-Foot Sawfish on Florida Coast

by Josh Lanier

A family from Minnesota was on their last day in Florida and wanted to catch a shark. But what they ended up catching was much more interesting.

Charter boat Captain Parker Miley of Fin and Fly Charters was tasked with helping the Therriault family accomplish their goal and have a memorable last day in the Sunshine State. They had already caught a blacknose shark earlier in the day not far from Kennedy Space Center, Field and Stream said.

After setting their lines with large pieces of kingfish, the family waited to see if another shark would chomp down on the bait. But when they got a bite, whatever was on the other end of the line didn’t behave like a shark. It didn’t run or thrash. It just slowly moved swam away.

Angler Kevin Therriault spent about 20 minutes reeling in the massive beast. But as it got close to the surface, Miley immediately knew this was something special.

“Oh my God, it’s a sawfish! You guys, this fish is super rare!” Miley said, according to Florida Today.

Miley removed the hook and released it before even pulling it from the water. That’s because the sawfish is an endangered species and federal officials have listed it under the Endangered Species Act since 2003. That means killing one is a federal crime.

You can see a video of the catch here.

In the video, it’s easy to spot the rostrum — or saw mouth — after it breaches the water. The animal uses the long, flat rostrums as weapons or as a way to dig in the sand. It also has small pores which can detect electrical fields its prey produces, Field and Stream said.

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Largest Sawfish Ever Recorded Washes Ashore

Earlier this year, a 16-foot female sawfish washed ashore dead along the Florida coast. The pregnant fish had several eggs in her reproductive tract, as well, Live Science reported.

While this isn’t ideal considering the fish is endangered, scientists say the carcass will at least provide some scientific data.

“Although it’s a sad occurrence when a big animal like that dies, from a scientific standpoint we knew we could learn a lot from it,” said Gregg Poulakis, a fish biologist at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “That makes us feel a little bit better about having lost such a big female.”

The record-breaking fish was one of two sawfish that scientists found dead in Florida earlier this year. Though the timing of the sawfish deaths is likely coincidental, Live Science said.

Scientists are still learning about the elusive sawfish. Poulakis and several other scientists have been catching, tagging them, and releasing them back into the wild to help better understand their lifecycles and behaviors.

This is vital work, considering up until the sawfish was listed as an endangered species almost nothing was known about the creatures.

“Basically, any question you could ask — ‘How big do they get?; what kind of habitat do they need?; how long do they live’ — we just didn’t have an answer,” Poulakis said.